National Grid predicts lower home heating bills this winter

Forecast released during news conference Monday
Ken Keating, National Grid's customer metering services rep, discusses energy efficiency Monday.
Ken Keating, National Grid's customer metering services rep, discusses energy efficiency Monday.

SCHENECTADY — Residents using electric to heat their homes could see to be 8.8 percent decrease in their heating bills, and those using natural gas could see a 5.8 percent decrease this winter, according to National Grid.

These figures were released during a news conference at the utility’s training facility in Schenectady on Monday. The utility also outlined ways for residents to be more energy efficient and reduce their heating bills.

The utility breaks its heating bills down by two sections: the cost to supply either electricity or gas, and the cost to deliver it.

The time period for these forecasts are between Nov. 1 and March 31, according to Laurie Poltynski, National Grid’s Eastern New York executive. She said the forecasted costs reflected a greater trend in upstate New York.

“Overall, total energy bills for most consumers have trended downwards over the last decade, assuming equal usage,” Poltynski said.

Poltynski said the total cost of electricity to heat homes could be $8, or 8.8 percent, less monthly than last year  This equals out to an estimated total $422 heating bill during the winter months, which is based on an average monthly use of 600 kilowatts per hour.

Poltynski said the cost to deliver the electricity will remain unchanged from last year.

“Electricity costs are difficult to predict months and months in advance,” Poltynski said. “But outside of unanticipated weather events, National Grid expects electricity bills to be lower in the upstate New York service area,”

The cost of natural gas to heat homes is expected to drop 13 percent, Poltynski said.

The charge for delivery of natural gas, though, will be up by 4 percent, Poltynski said. She said this is due to the increase in higher delivery rates that were approved by the state Public Service Commission in April.

This means the total bill for consumers using natural gas during the winter months is anticipated to be $507, which is 5.8 percent, or $31, less compared to last year.

This is based off an average use of 713 therms of gas during that time period.

“National Grid’s winter heating forecast calls for customers to see natural gas bills that are lower than seen during typical upstate winters thank to predicted decrease in wholesale supply prices,” Poltynski said.

These prices could change, though, as Poltynski said “severely cold weather” could have an impact.

Also provided during the press conference were suggestions on how customers could reduce their energy usage.

Renee Devine, National Grid’s energy efficiency program manager for upstate New York, said residents could do a host of different things to reduce energy costs.

This included washing clothes in cold water and turning off electrical appliances such as TVs, stereos and computers while not in use, which can each save customers approximately $9 a month, Devine said.

She said customers can save approximately $13 a month by weather stripping or caulking windows and doors, or even purchasing thermal curtains, to prevent heat from escaping from a home.

Devine also suggested to those customers who have a second, older refrigerator to get rid of them and save approximately $23 a month.

Customers can also do an energy efficiency audit by using the Upstate New York Energy Assessment on National Grid’s website, which Devine said will take approximately 15 minutes.

Ken Keating, a customer meter rep for National Grid, also spoke about different ways residents can reduce energy costs.

This included changing the filter on a furnace, which can be found at the base of the appliance. He said it not only reduces heating bills for customers, but extends the life of the furnace.

Installing a digital programmable thermostat was another suggestion by Keating. It allows people to lower the temperature of their home when they aren’t there, which he said could “substantially” save money for customers.

Keating also said for customers with tank-style water heaters to not turn the temperature up all the way. He said turning up the heat causes more cold water to mix in, which increases the use of energy to heat the water. Instead, he said to run it at a colder temperature.

“That could be a huge energy savings,” Keating said.

Otherwise, Keating said customers can get a heating contractor to look at their heating system each year to make sure it’s running properly and efficiently.

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